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MASwings forced to fly empty!
Published on: Thursday, January 31, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: In a bizzare  turn of events that seems to defy logic, Maswings has since Jan. 1 been flying its ATR500s between here and Sandakan four times daily – but without any paying passengers on board except for crew.

This means up to 240 seats unoccupied (ATR500s can accommodate 60 people) which if snapped up at AsiaAsia’s current rates for the same sector at RM195 (taking booking on Feb. 3 flight as benchmark) would mean a loss of RM46,800 daily or RM1.4m monthly and more depending on how long this state of affairs is allowed to continue.

Daily Express was tipped off about this by the travelling public who were prevented from boarding these “ferry flights” as they were called that depart KK at 8.20am and 3.15pm daily. The ATRs then proceed to serve only the Sandakan-Tawau sector before returning again to KK empty.

They described the arrangement as “stupid”. 

“On the one hand they (new government) keep saying they want to cut costs. I want the new Transport Minister and Finance Minister to explain why they are allowing taxpayer’s monies and resources to be wasted this way,” said one of the disgruntled travellers who had to settle for an alternative flight to Sandakan.

“I find it absurd because the plane was there at the airport but with not a single passenger when it took off to Sandakan,” one of them said.  

What puzzled him more was the fact that it allowed passengers to board the plane when it reached Sandakan en route to Tawau.  

“Isn’t this also a waste of fuel for the aircraft?,” he said. 

When asked, Maswings did not deny this had been the case since Jan.1 and blamed it on its flight operations for rural areas in Sabah and Sarawak being governed by the new Public Service Obligations (PSO) 2019 Agreement, which was signed between the Airlines and Ministry of Transport (MOT). 

A spokeswoman for Maswings said under the new agreement, it was no longer given the right to operate “eight routes” within and across Sabah and Sarawak since Jan. 1. 

“These include routes from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan vice versa and Kota Kinabalu to Tawau vice versa. 

“These eight routes were removed from the new Agreement as it no longer falls under the definition of PSO under the Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) Act. These eight routes are now operated by other commercial airlines such as Malaysia Airlines and Airasia,” she added. 

She, however, said it would still be servicing the route from Sandakan to Tawau and vice versa on daily schedule, which was listed among the 39 routes it was presently operating under the new agreement. 

“To enable us to fulfil this obligation, we need to operate on ‘ferry services’ from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan and vice versa.

“On this ‘ferry services’, we are not allowed to sell and carry commercial passengers except for operating technical and cabin crew only as per the guidelines set by MAVCOM and MOT.

“Even our own staff are not allowed to board such flight as it is strictly for operating pilots and cabin crew only,” she added. - Oliver Voon 



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